Beyond Bhuttos and Sharifs

In Pakistan, what we have as leaders now is a merry-band of thugs and charlatans, while the country is mired deep in lawlessness, hunger and chaos.

By Muhammad Arslan Qadeer | April 2023

For centuries, patients under ailment have placed their trust in doctors; Voyagers have relied upon Sea Captains to steer the rocking ship out of the stormy ocean, and here dare I go against the Beckettian concept of existential self-reliance, for I believe that man is always waiting for Godot (a small god).

Man has always had a natural propensity towards following a “leader”.

Leader. As a Pakistani, that word sounds alien to me— an amorphous linguistic entity that we barely seem to understand. Unfortunately, our understanding of what and how a leader should be, seems to have been lost somewhere in a myriad of unprepossessing rhetoric, hollow slogans, and redundant political ideology that deserves nothing but to be trashed in the dustbin. What we have as leaders now is a merry-band of thugs and charlatans, while the country is mired deep in lawlessness, hunger and chaos. Sometimes one wonders as to why Pakistan struggles to find its feet and to develop into a great nation. Notwithstanding democracy or martial laws, we have carved a system of our own in which the mighty ‘haves’ rule over the frail and weak ‘have nots’. In which the wretched masses continue to experience unabated misery and destitution. In which the rich landlords, industrialists, people with dubious and ill-gotten wealth who, except for suppressing and tormenting poor wretched souls, and who have not done anything worthwhile in their entire lives, continue to wield power in one form or another. A win in the election fetches them the badge of so-called leader.

The dearth of leadership in Pakistan is not a recently-born issue. The vacuum in political leadership developed in the country with the death of Quaid—the man who was the emblem of all that leadership is supposed to entail: Sincerity, Steadfastness, Selflessness, Vision, and a Sense of Ownership; besides, being a great ‘uniter’, for the most significant attribute of a genuine leader is his ability and quality to bring people together as one nation. And this quality alone draws a line between a genuine leader and a politician. The latter has a propensity to divide rather unite the people. With the death of the Quaid the country plunged into the ethnic and ideological cesspool and which subsequently became a handy tool in the hands of the politicians –a phenomenon that still prevails at large.

Pakistan’s political history, after the death of the Quaid, is seen colored by four distinctive phases, and the last phase is the one we continue to experience. These four phases have not just been about the ludicrous game of the powerful lobbying against each other, but also about personal vendettas overshadowing national interests. The commonality between all four phases is that the country’s greater good has always become secondary to the selfish interests of the proverbial vultures, disguised as leaders.

For decades, brooding political inconsistency has deprived Pakistan of a self-sustaining economic model, which could rely on itself without the support of US-sent aid, resulting in menacing political polarization, and a developmental paradox where the rich are getting richer, and the poor, poorer, with each passing day.

Phase 1: 1948-1957

Unlike India, which had Jawaharlal Nehru supervising the state’s affairs for a good 17 years, Pakistan was orphaned a year after its birth. Frail and struggling, with no economic sectors, and feebly surviving without a constitution till 1956.

I do not revere Liaquat Ali Khan as an equivalent, or a substitute to Quaid, for in order to lead, one must just not have clean hands, and a sincere heart, but also an able-bodied vision—something that Liaquat, in my eyes, lacked severely. The period of Ghulam Muhammad, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Iskander Mirza, in the absence of a constitutional umbrella, fueled by ethnicity and cultural differences, remained a battle ground to win hegemony over each other. It was a period of uncondoned puerile political adventures bringing the country to a stagnant, stale and sordid existence. Resultantly Punjab emerged as the power house alienating the Eastern wing. At one-point relations among the provinces within West Pakistan turned rancorous.

Read More

One thought on “Beyond Bhuttos and Sharifs

  • May 2, 2023 at 10:18 am

    Great comment. A very easy to read style. Prefer this simplicity of tone to the pedantic style used by s most syndicated coloumnists